Shen Yun Performing Arts packed the house at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia during its 12-day run which ended on March 11.
After seeing Shen Yun, audience members lauded the performance for its beauty, technical skill, and its spiritual depth.
“Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I marvel at how well you do these things, everything was perfect,” said television and stage actor Harry Bergman. “The technical work, I never saw a background do that kind of thing before in my entire life.”
“Wonderful dancers, beautiful colors, scenes—great,” said Fabio Rizzi, senior vice president of operations at Buzzi Unicem USA. “The singers: the soprano and the baritone—top.”
A snowstorm that hit the Philadelphia area on March 7 kept some audience members away. But Shen Yun enjoyed full theaters for its other 19 performances.
According to the Shen Yun’s program book, the dances tell legendary stories with the aid of an animated backdrop, a live orchestra, and handmade costumes.
The performance this year includes part of the classic novel Journey to the West, in which the monk leads a group seeking to retrieve Buddhist scriptures from India.
“You can tell how old they are and how these parables are still sort of relevant today and still trying to teach a very nice wholesome lesson. So it’s really quite fun,” said Matthew Wolf, executive director at Kings Theatre Brooklyn.
“They’re very mythological in very different ways. I mean, I think you know when you take the story of the monkey and the warlock in particular, it’s just a really fun story but it’s a story about you know sort of good against evil and you know working together to triumph over evil and things like that.”
The stories reach up to the present day, opening a window into what has become of China under communism.
Corine Brown, an assistant professor at Rowan University, was surprised to learn that the Communist Party has been persecuting practitioners of Falun Gong, a meditation discipline rooted in ancient Chinese spiritual beliefs with teachings of truth, compassion, and tolerance.
“I was most affected by the ‘Unprecedented Crime’ performance because I feel so strongly that spirituality and faith is an important part of your life. I love the idea that people would be so committed to what they hold inside to be true. And that there would be a way that we could reunite those aspects of our lives.”
“I love it very much. And pieces I like about it are that there, it shows the common emotions, the common dreams and aspirations that bring everybody together,” said Richard Pestell, a physician-scientist. “Everybody appreciates this because it’s a common emotion and common challenges that all cultures face, expressed in the art form.”